California State University, Long Beach, Hosts 41st Annual Pow Wow

March 15, 2011

The 41st annual Pow Wow, an American Indian social celebration, was hosted by California State University, Long Beach on Saturday, March 12th, and Sunday, March 13th. Event co-hosts included The American Indian Studies Program, American Indian Student Council, Division of Student Services, Student Life and Development, and Associated Students, Inc.

Celebrating the presence of Native American heritage on CSULB’s campus as well as in Long Beach as a whole, the Pow Wow featured many attractions, including vendors selling authentic Native American food like beef stews and Navajo tacos, as well as contemporary American Indian art and other cultural items. The event showcased daily presentations of gourd dancing, a traditional Native American dance said to have originated with the Kiowa Indians. Marked by a continuous drum beat, the dance is performed by both men and women who wear costumes and hold rattles and fans made from eagle feathers.

The event was also sponsored by Puvungna, a sacred Indian site that, according to its website, “once occupied the land where Cal State Long Beach now stands.” The site has had a tumultuous history with policymakers and land developers wanting to build on top of the sacred ground; however, as of now, the site is safe from development. Former CSULB President Robert Maxson vowed to preserve the land during his tenure, and President F. King Alexander’s administration has thus far honored Maxson’s commitment.

According to Gloria Arellanes, one of the tribal elders of the Tongva tribe, when one walks on the Puvungna site, “you feel the spiritual presence, so it’s a very sacred site.” The Tongva tribe fought for 22 acres of the Puvungna land and went through many court cases to prevent the university from building a strip mall and additional dormitories on the site. “We’d like to keep that site as natural as possible,” Arellanes said. “It is a constant battle for people to acknowledge us.”

The American Indian Advisory Council (AIAC) also hosted the annual Native American Resource Summit. According to the AIAC’s website, the summit is “a gathering of community services that respect and support the cultures and traditions of the American Indian people.”

By Gerry Wachovsky
Journalism alumnus and current graduate student

Additional Photos